.- The very public and international forum of the Internet has helped to highlight for many Christians the importance of and the need for confession. In recent years, a number of websites have emerged that provide surfers an outlet to express their wrongdoings and the brokenness in their lives in search of healing and a peaceful spirit.
One such website is mysecret.tv, which is managed by evangelical Christian minister Rev. Craig Groeschel, the founder of LifeChurch. He told the New York Times that the large number of anonymous accounts he reads on his website have affirmed his belief in the need for confession.
LifeChurch set up mysecret.tv as a forum for people to confess anonymously on the Internet about a month ago. Since then, it has received more than 150,000 hits and more than 1,500 confessions.
Groeschel told the Times that after 16 years in ministry he knew that the smiles and handshakes he received each week from parishioners often masked a lot of pain.
“I realized that people are carrying around dark secrets, and the website is giving them a first place for confession,” he told the Times. “There’s no magic in confessing on a website. My biggest fear is that someone would think that and would go on with life. This is just Step 1.”
Due to the response to his website, Groeschel had begun a series of sermons on forgiveness and the need for confession.
“We confess to God for forgiveness but to each other for healing,” he told the Times. “Secrets isolate you, and keep you away from God, from those people closest to you.”
Fr. Christopher Layden, said that he’s not surprised by people’s desire to confess their sins, but said that what the Catholic Church offers is even more profound. “There is something cathartic about revealing ourselves to another in individual, especially when that individual is acting in the person of Christ. We need to hear that we are forgiven, and Christ offers that in a very real and personal way.”
Layden, who received his training in sacramental theology from Rome’s Pontifical University Sant’Anselmo, told CNA that while the decision of Christians to ask forgiveness for their sins is obviously good, the growth of sites such as Groeschel’s points to a troubling trend in society at large. “We’re in a culture which is growing increasingly comfortable behind the screen of a computer, but not the screen of the confessional.” Fr. Layden said that the anonymity which comes with chat rooms and online forums can shield men and women from entering into true relationships with one another and, in this case, with God.
Catholics believe that God offers forgiveness and peace by way of confession with a priest. “Since Apostolic times Christians have sought reconciliation by confessing their sins to the presbyters,” Layden said.
He said that Confession, as a visible sign of invisible grace, has been around since Christ told the Apostles, “whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained (Jn 20:23).”